Urban planners review county, city proposals

By The Mercury

Members of the Urban Area Planning Board reviewed the county’s Vision 2025 proposal to guide future development in rural areas during a meeting Thursday.

Bob Isaac, county planner, said the meeting was one step in a process of implementing the Vision 2025 proposals. The next step will involve opportunities for public feedback, which will take place starting next week.

Isaac characterized the recognition of Urban Area Planning Board members Thursday as positive. The Urban Area Planning Board has jurisdiction over planning concerns in the city and also within a corridor around the city. The county planning board, which controls planning decisions in the county’s rural areas, has already reviewed Vision 2025.

“They received it very well,” Isaac said of the Urban Area Planning Board members. “They liked the direction we were going.”

The plan is designed to be a definitive guide for the future development of the unincorporated areas through 2025. Isaac said its emphasis is on protecting agricultural land and operations.

“I think we’re fairly comfortable with where we are heading into the actual public information meetings,” he said.

The first of those meetings will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, at the fire station headquarters. A second meeting will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Riley County High School cafeteria. Those meetings are designed to elicit public feedback about the plan, which can be viewed in detail through themercury.com.

City plan

City staff also updated the board on the city’s comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 2003 to control and predict growth in the city. Board members were critical of the picture the plan presented, making it clear they want to see a more proactive approach toward planning.

“We don’t want to just have a token effort at what we have considered our historic quality of life,” Stephanie Rolley, board member, said.

Lance Evans, senior planner, said the city is absorbing an average of 96.9 net acres per year based on data since 2003. Evans said based on that data the city will have enough room to grow “for the next 16 years roughly.”

Rolley said some of areas designated for growth are not going to be able to be developed the way the city thinks. She said the planning department might want to take a closer look at some of the areas designated for residential growth.

Eric Catell said the city’s data was relatively conservative, considering that it used net acres and subtracted out 33 percent of the areas. He viewed that as a high deduction.

Rolley also said it will be important to consider how the city develops in the future. She said the city and the Board must ask what development patterns are most appropriate in coming decades. Gary Stith, board member, was concerned because the data used current growth rates. Stith said it’s possible the city could increase its growth rate.

“We’re not the sleepy little town we used to be,” Stith said. “I don’t think we all accept and understand Manhattan is now a metropolitan area.”

Mike Kratochvil, board member, questioned whether land for growth would last for 16 years. He said expansion into Pottawatomie County will be an issue to look at “sooner than later.

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